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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 04:55 GMT 05:55 UK
Straw rounds off Middle East talks
Jack Straw (left) is greeted by Egypt's senior cleric Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi
Mr Straw was warned any military action must not harm innocent Afghans
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is rounding off his quest to gain Middle East support for action against international terrorism by holding talks with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt is not expected to take an active role in any military action against Afghanistan but it is thought the president will take an understanding approach to operations directed at Osama Bin Laden.

President Mubarak has warned against action that would hurt civilians but has made it clear that he regards the Taleban as dangerous extremists.

On Wednesday the foreign secretary had talks with Egypt's most senior cleric Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi and Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa.

Both men warned Mr Straw they would only support military action against the perpetrators of the US atrocities, but not innocent Afghans.

Targeting terrorists

Sharing a platform with Mr Straw after their meeting, Mr Moussa said: "Any action that would result in a lot of innocent victims would indeed be a very sad result.

"In addition to thousands we lost as human beings in New York, we would be losing thousands in another place.

"We better not resort to any action that would result in this.

"But a surgical operation to deal with the accused after announcing the evidence on that, this would be something we would understand."

President Hosni Mubarak
Mr Mubarak is expected to be sympathetic
He reiterated that Arab countries would not take part in any planned US-led military action against Afghanistan, although they were all "solidly against international terrorism".

He suggested the best outcome would be for Osama Bin Laden to be put on trial "for all of us around the world to know what exactly happened".

A BBC correspondent says British officials saw this reaction as an endorsement of Western plans to attack the Taleban, while Egyptian journalists saw it as a reprimand to Britain for failing to extradite Egyptians wanted by Cairo on terrorist charges.

Mr Straw's meeting in Cairo with Mr Mubarak is the last engagement of his four-day tour of the region.

Constructive talks

Mr Straw had meetings in Israel late on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Mr Peres.

The British minister described his talks with Mr Sharon as very constructive and cordial, saying they discussed the attacks on the US and agreed on the need for unanimity in fighting terrorism.

The meeting took place after Britain and Israel resolved a row over remarks by Mr Straw, which Israel said implied that it was partly to blame for terrorist attacks against it.

Mr Straw also had talks with the Palestinian legislator, Hanan Ashrawi, during which he stressed the need for the Palestinian Authority to do everything it could to ensure there was a complete halt to violence.

Mr Straw's trip to Israel follows a brief visit to Tehran, where he consulted Iranian leaders on the global crisis following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

See also:

26 Sep 01 | Middle East
Mid-East truce mapped out
26 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK-Israel talks 'convivial'
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK fosters Iran relations
24 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK in new Mid-East row
24 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Analysis: Straw's visit divides Iran
17 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran condemns attacks on US
19 Sep 01 | Middle East
Middle East: Building the coalition
25 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK seeks to heal Israel rift
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